Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Trade away these trades

Like Captain America's shield, Lee Suggs has come bouncing back to Cleveland. Seems like the Browns can't even throw their garbage away right. Most likely, Suggs will end up released now after failing a physical with the New York Jets. Suggs says he's bewildered. Most likely, the Jets just remembered that they were trading for a player from a team God hates.

But it would be Cleveland luck to see this trade voided, a trade that might have actually helped the Browns. Cornerback Derrick Strait may not have been anything special, but both his legs work. That's worth a starting spot on this Browns team.

Of course, none of our players ever fails a physical when we WOULDN'T want to see him traded. Nope, the trade goes through, and our former stars go on to greatness and championship rings in other cities. Here's 10 other trades that Cleveland teams have made over the years that we fans would have liked to see voided:

1) Ron Harper to the Los Angeles Clippers for Danny Ferry

Magic Johnson proclaimed the Cavs as "the team of the ''90s." Then Michael Jordan made The Shot and Wayne Embry made The Trade. The worst trade in Cleveland sports history. A trade made because Wayne Embry didn't like Ron Harper's friends. The trade so bad that it makes Rocky Colavito for Harvey Kuenn -- a trade that spawned a curse, according to Terry Pluto -- look good. In the season after The Trade, the Cavs dropped from 57-25 to 42-40, then to 33-49. Though they rebounded to 57-25 in the 1991-92 season, the window was closed.

It sure doesn't make anyone feel better to know that Ron Harper ended up with five championship rings while playing for the Bulls and Lakers, while Danny Ferry wound up winning one with the San Antonio Spurs. But not with the Cavs, noooooooooooooooooo, neither one.

2) Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn

Here's what happens to the icon of Cleveland after he gets traded to the Detroit Tigers just before the 1960 season: a sports columnist takes shots at him, he tries to attack the columnist after the columnist charges him with an error while serving as official scorer, he is ejected from a game after going into the stands to take on a drunk who was going after his wife and father, he holds out for a higher salary than team icon Al Kaline and incurs the fans' wrath, and he costs the Indians Tommy John and Tommie Agee when he comes back in 1965. And he gets the team cursed! At least Terry Pluto's happy.

3) Brian Giles to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Ricardo Rincon

You don't give the bartender $10 for a dollar draft and tell him to keep the change just because you've got a bunch of $10 bills in your pocket. But that's what John Hart did when he sent Brian Giles to the Pirates for a "much-needed" lefty reliever.

As of a month ago, Giles had hit 213 homers and 267 doubles, drawn 809 walks and posted an OBP of .415 and a SLG of .541. No wonder this is still talked about as one of the worst trades for a reliever of all time. Of course, John Hart didn't learn his lesson. Less than two years later, he sent Richie Sexson, Kane Davis, Paul Rigdon, and a player to be named later (Marco Scutaro) to the Milwaukee Brewers for Bob Wickman, Steve Woodard, and Jason Bere. That Wickman set the Tribe's all-time save record saves this from being a trade where we would have preferred Sexson failed his physical, but wouldn't you rather have had Richie Sexson for the last six years?
By the way, has there been any GM who has traded away as much top-tier talent for nothing as John Hart? Jeff Kent, Brian Giles, Sexson, and Travis Hafner brought his teams back Matt Williams, Bob Wickman, Ricardo Rincon, Einar Diaz and Aaron Myette. Danny Graves, Sean Casey and Marquis Grissom brought back John Smiley, Ben McDonald, and Dave Burba. John Hart paid Mercedes prices for Yugos in both Cleveland and Texas.

4) Brandon Phillips to the Cincinnati Reds for a bag of air

But really, who wouldn't want to keep Ramon Vazquez over Brandon Phillips. After all, Vazquez has the type of attitude that will make him a valuable bench player. He proved it when, after being demoted to Buffalo for the fourth time this year, he said, "I never got a shot here. Not this year of last year." Hey, Ramon -- it's cause you stink! Oh, and Brandon Phillips is hitting .289 with 11 homers, 57 RBI, and 21 SBs. For a team leading the NL wild-card race.

5) Dick Jacobs for Larry Dolan

OK, not really a trade, but don't you wish this swap had never been made?

6) Jeff Faine to the New Orleans Saints for a draft pick

Can the Browns use that draft pick to draft another center?

7) Bobby Mitchell to the Washington Redskins for the #1 draft pick (Ernie Davis)

Sure, maybe it's not fair to call this a bad trade. The Browns didn't know that Ernie Davis, the player they took with that top pick in 1962, was going to die of leukemia before even making it into a game. And they didn't know that Bobby Mitchell was going to go on to a Hall of Fame career. But they did know they are a Cleveland team, and that God hates them. So they should have known something awful was going to happen. Hell, we didn't even get a Brian's Song-type movie made out of this.

8) Earnest Byner to the Washington Redskins for Mike Oliphant

They figured Earnest Byner would never recover after The Fumble. So before the 1989 season, the Browns traded him. He was so despondent, he went on to two 1,000-yard seasons and a Super Bowl title. Then he came back to Cleveland just in time for the Browns to move. But Mike Oliphant scored a touchdown in his first game with the Browns! Of course, it was the only one of his career. For those keeping score at home, Earnest Byner ran the ball 2,095 times for 8,261 times and 56 touchdowns while throwing in 512 receptions for 4,605 yards and 15 more touchdowns. Mike Oliphant ran the ball 23 times for 127 yards and caught 18 passes for 133 yards in his career.

9) Charles Oakley to the Chicago Bulls for Keith Lee and Ennis Whatley

Not content with drafting The Oak Tree ninth overall in 1985, the Cavs dealt his rights. But who wouldn't rather have Keith Lee and Ennis Whatley over a guy who would play in 1,282 games? Lee ALMOST scored that many points in his career (1,114)!

10) Omar Vizquel to the Seattle Mariners for Carlos Guillen

Ooops, Omar actually DID fail his physical in December of 2003, depriving the Tribe of Guillen. Guillen's only gone on to hit over .300 with 40 HRs in two-plus seasons for the Tigers, leading them to the top of the baseball world this season. Most likely, Derrick Strait will intercept eight passes this year as the Jets go 15-1 and win the Super Bowl.

Don't bet on it!

Who in their right mind would bet on the Browns to win? Heck, who in their right mind would bet on any Cleveland team to win anything? But there's your proof right there, a $40 bet at New York New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on the Browns to beat the Eagles straight up in preseason action last week. No points needed for this bettor! Nope, he had total confidence that the Browns would win this game outright.

Meanwhile, the rest of us wonder why.

This is a team that lost its Pro Bowl center (LeCharles Bentley) to a blown knee on the first play of the second day of training camp. This is a team that lost its backup center (Bob Hallen) to a blown mind a couple weeks after that. This is a team down two cornerbacks (Daylon McCutcheon, Gary Baxter) and another offensive lineman (Ryan Tucker). This is a team whose free agent wide receiver addition (Joe Jurevicius) has suffered back spasms in training camp thanks to a fight. This is a team whose QB (Charlie Frye) hid a supposedly minor thumb injury for a couple days. Heck, this is a team where even the expected stars who HAVEN'T been hurt this preseason are coming off catastrophic injuries from previous years (Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow).

And NOW this is a team that can't even throw out its trash (Lee Suggs) without something going wrong. Gee, what a surprise that someone who has missed nearly half of his career games with injuries failed a physical.

There aren't this many injured people in a hospital.

But that's the thing about Cleveland sports fans. We're suckers. Or masochists. Really, what's the difference? Go to Cleveland Browns Stadium, Jacobs Field, The Q, or old Municipal Stadium or the Richfield Coliseum and put your heart on the line. You end up losing. Go to Las Vegas and put your money on the line, you end up losing. We're to the point where we need to call Lloyd's of London for an insurance policy on our emotions whenever we turn on a game. Most likely that would carry too high a premium, though.

One thing's for sure -- God hates Cleveland sports bettors just as much as God hates Cleveland sports. Or maybe he loves Cleveland sports bettors, because they are certain to lose, making God happy twice over. And us ever the poorer.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How could this happen to me?

They could title the article, "What in the world is wrong with the Indians?" and it would be appropriate. That's what ESPN.com Insider Jerry Crasnick asks in his latest column. Mark Shapiro basically says, "Heck if I know." The Indians are third in runs scored and have outscored their opposition by nearly 30 runs, yet they are as far or farther out of first than the last-place team in every other division.

As Shapiro is quoted in the article:

"This year has been a very large disappointment. We're bitter about it, and we still have to figure out why. But we haven't been able to put our finger on one thing."
And as Crasnick writes, maybe that's because there isn't just any one thing to put a finger on. Even if there were, it would be one very large finger -- like King Kong size. There's the bad baserunning, frightening fielding, lousy left fielders, awful offseason moves, and broken bullpen.

Just a typical year in Cleveland.

To help out Mark Shapiro, here's the God Hates Cleveland Sports ranking of reasons this year has been a very large disappointment:

10) Eric Wedge -- We're not ready to join the Fire Eric Wedge movement. It really isn't his fault that Jhonny Peralta can't figure out which base to throw to, that Aaron Boone has wasted nearly 900 plate appearances in an Indians uniform, that no one on the team can run faster than a glacier, and that Victor Martinez throwing out a baserunner is more rare than a Stradivarius. But he doesn't help, especially what with his strange love affair with Ramon Vazquez. You know, the guy with six career homers whom Wedge pushed for the Indians to keep over Brandon Phillips, then used as a pinch-hitter in a game when a home run was needed to tie the game.

A temper tantrum might help. Everyone's sick of hearing how the Indians just need to focus and try hard. Just start throwing things around to get some attention. Like Aaron Boone.

9) Leftovers in left field -- For as lousy as he's been, Jason Michaels still has an almost identical on-base percentage and slugging percentage as Coco Crisp. But that's only because Coco Crisp has been lousy in Boston, not because Jason Michaels has been exceptionally good. Eight homers and 40 RBI out of your left fielder just ain't gonna cut it, especially when he throws himself around in the field like a fish trying to escape capture. In RBI, he's ahead of only two other AL left fielders with more than 300 at-bats -- and behind three others with less at-bats.

8) J.P. Riccardi -- We'll blame the Toronto Blue Jays' GM for starting the cascade that led to the downfall of the Tribe bullpen. Infatuated with closer B.J. Ryan, the Tribe chased him like a puppy after its master. Problem was, while the Indians were courting Ryan, current flame Bobby Howry left the house and joined the Cubs. A week later, Toronto gave Ryan a five-year, $47 million deal and the Indians were left without a date to the prom.

7) Mark Shapiro -- Larry Dolan's empty wallet has Shapiro in chains, but that excuse only flies for so long. If you're going to win the 2005 GM of the Year award, you better not let your team drop to sixth-worst in the majors the last year. The Paul Byrd signing has been fine, but everything else Shapiro has touched has turned to dust. Jason Michaels -- bust. Revamped bullpen -- as bad as '04. Aaron Boone -- killed the team for two years. Jason Johnson -- let's agree to forget it ever happened. Brandon Phillips for a can of air -- oooops! But letting Austin Kearns slip through his fingers when all the Washington Nationals gave up were a couple of middle relievers (one of whom who was damaged goods) may haunt Shapiro like a ghost for years to come.

6) Art Modell -- Why not? He's the most hated sports figure in Cleveland history. Might as well take out this Indians season on him, too.

5) Fernando Cabrera and the New Bullpen From Hell -- After an excellent 2005 (1.47 ERA in 30.2 innings), Cabrera was projected as the new Bob Howry, which made Howry expendable while the Indians chased after overpriced closers. Now that Cabrera's fallen on his face (6.10 ERA in 3682 innings) it's dominoed over to every other reliever. Rafael Betancourt's ERA is a run higher than his career mark. Scott Sauerbeck hid from police in the bushes one night, then gave up one too many homers to a lefty. Danny Graves should never have been on the team to begin with. Guillermo Mota, well, let's just skip Guillermo Mota. And Kyra Sedgewick makes a much better closer than Fausto Carmona.

The Indians have the AL's fourth-worst bullpen ERA at 4.96. Remember the pen from 2004 ruined by Jose Jimenez and Scott Stewart? They ended up at 4.88, third-worst in the AL. Sound familiar?

4) Cheap Larry Dolan -- If you look closely at one of the guys roaming Carnegie Avenue while rattling a cupful of change, don't be surprised to see Larry Dolan in disguise. No one wants to hear about the Tribe's poor pockets anymore, and after two years of Aaron Boone and Ben Broussard clogging up the middle of the lineup, it's obvious the Indians need another bat. The way to get another bat is to pay for one. Heck, there's people that think Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds will help the Indians next year. These people obviously need help, but it shows that just making a splash in the free-agent market will go a long way toward befriending the fans again. Hopefully the Indians wouldn't just buy someone to buy someone, though. Hopefully they can actually open the purse strings to pay someone what he's worth.

3) Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook -- The Indians brought in Jason Johnson to be their innings eater this year, when all along they already had an innings eater. His name is Jake Westbrook. And he's Mr. Average. Westbrook has a career 4.41 ERA -- almost exactly in line with his 2006 ERA -- and a 48-49 inning. All while tossing 200 innings per year. Now THAT'S an innings eater. Couple him with the disappointing Cliff Lee (4.75 ERA this year, 4.47 ERA career) and you've got two average guys anchoring your rotation by dragging it right down to the bottom of your ocean.

The Indians and everyone else were expecting improvement from these two guys. When you've got two average guys starting 40 percent of your games, everyone else has to be above average to make up for it. And God knows the Indians don't have enough above average guys to make up for it.

2) Jhonny Peralta and piss-poor fielding -- Peralta's fielding statistics are actually right about where they were last year. But since his hitting has dropped to Tom Veryzer levels, his defensive reputation is taking a hit. And since the Indians need slick fielders behind their sinkerball pitchers, they can't afford a dropoff in fielding.

But the Indians have committed the second-most errors and allowed the most stolen bases in the AL. Every Indians infielder (including the departed Ben Broussard and Ronnie Belliard) either made the most or second-most errors at his position while they were in town. And sometimes even when they don't make an error, they still look like they're playing infield on ice skates.

1) God -- Actually, God is the top one million reasons for why the Indians have fallen down a bottomless pit. But we have to pretend to have some semblance of control by listing a few other reasons. Otherwise, we'd hurtle ourselves right down that pit after the Indians.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

No closer to a closer

This baseball stuff is easy. Apparently all you have to do is say you're going to do something, and it's done. Case in point: Fausto Carmona.

The Indians say he's a closer, so -- PRESTO! -- he IS a closer! Set aside for a moment the fact that he's blown EVERY SINGLE SAVE OPPORTUNITY HE'S EVER HAD! That's OK. You know why? Because he's a closer! The Indians say so. And so does Bud Shaw of The Plain Dealer, who for the second time in a week writes an ill-timed column. In the past 10 days, Bud Shaw has written that Browns center LeCharles Bentley is indispensible on the day Bentley blew out his knee, and now asks us not to give up on Fausto on the day he blows his third straight save.

Apparently Eric Wedge isn't giving up on Fausto. He says, "We're not going to make a decision like this on a whim. . . . 10 minutes after the game." No, of course not, who would want to do that? Not right after the game. Wait until he's blown four games in a row in the space of seven days, then make your decision. You know, give Fausto some rope. What? He's already blown four games this week?

Fausto Carmona has been so bad as "closer", he would have been cut from the Indians' Bullpen from Hell. In fact, you wonder if Fausto is the new No. 1 at the top of this list of worst Indians' "closers" of all time:

* Jose Jimenez, 2004: 1-7 record, 8 saves, 3 blown saves, 8.42 ERA, hasn't pitched in the majors or minors since.

* Sammy Stewart, 1987: 4-2 record, 3 saves, 5.67 ERA in 27 IP -- and like Jimenez, never again pitched in the majors. Blew his first save chance by allowing five runs in the top of the ninth in a 14-9 loss to the Chicago White Sox on July 3. Ozzie Guillen started the collapse with a double. At least his failure paved the way for Doug Jones, who led the team with eight saves that season.

* Ernie Camacho, 1987: 1 save, 0-1 record, 9.22 record in 13.1 IP. Set the Tribe record with 23 saves in 1984 while pitching 100 innings, then was punished by God with an elbow injury that erased his 1985 season. He bounced back to record 20 saves in 1986, but fell apart in 1987. He was actually booed in the bullpen while warming up. Akron Beacon Journal Indians beat writer Sheldon Ocker calls Camacho the most memorable relief pitcher he's covered.

* Frank Wills, 1986: Who? Eminently forgettable, he probably never really was a closer. He saved four games and went 4-4 with a 4.91 ERA. Somehow lasted nine years in the bigs with a 5.06 ERA.

* The entire 1985 Bullpen From Hell: Tom Waddell (9 saves, 8-6 record, 4.87 ERA), Rich Thompson (5 saves, 3-8 record, 6.30 ERA), Bryan Clark (2 saves, 3-4 record, 6.32 ERA), Jerry Reed (8 saves, 3-5 record, 4.11 ERA). Vern Ruhle (3 saves, 2-10 record, 4.32 ERA), Jeff Barkley (1 save, 0-3 record, 5.27 ERA). It's never a good thing when the combined record of your closers is 19-38. (OK, really the 1987 team is considered the Tribe's real Bullpen From Hell, but c'mon, that's at least where Doug Jones got his start!)

So at least if Fausto Carmona never gets another save chance (we can hope) he'll have already claimed his place in the annals of Indians closer history -- most hated by God.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Get back, Loretta

Ummmm .............. errrrrrrr ............... uhhhhhhhh .......

Oh, hell, just read this again. Apparently Fausto Carmona hates Cleveland sports, too. At least Big Papi didn't get another walkoff. It was Mark Loretta this time.

Oh, and Bob Wickman picked up his fourth save for the Braves last night. The Indians' "closer" still has none.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Brash talking

So Kellen Winslow finally admits what everyone's known all along. He says he'll never be 100% percent. But in that Cleveland fantasy land that lies somewhere north of wishful thinking, Winslow's set up camp right next to Larry Dolan's spend-what-we-make philosophy of contending:
''I hate to be brash, but I think my 90 percent is still better than every tight end out there.'' -- Kellen Winslow Jr.
The most amazing revelation isn't that Kellen Winslow actually believes that at 90 percent he's better (Antonio Gates) than every (Tony Gonzalez) other tight end (Jeremy Shockey) in football (Todd Heap). It's that Kellen Winslow hates to be brash!

Brash is why K2 gets as much attention as he does. Brash is what he was after a game in college with Miami in November 2003, when he injured a Tennessee Volunteer player and then said, "If I didn't hurt him, he'd hurt me. They're gunnin' for my legs. I'm a soldier." Brash is what he was when he hopped on his motorcycle, popped a wheelie, then nearly popped his leg off his body last May. The fourth word in the first article posted on the Cleveland Browns own web site following the drafting of Winslow is "brash". Kellen was even called brash in one of the first newspaper headlines about him during training camp of 2004, after he plowed over former teammate Roosevelt Williams (who?) in practice.

Look, we all indulge in wishful thinking from time to time. Who doesn't want Scarlet Johansson to show up at his front door wearing a short raincoat, black boots, and nothing else? And we know you have a lot of self-confidence, Kellen. BUT YOU DO NOT HATE TO BE BRASH!

Kellen Winslow Jr. hates to be brash like Donald Trump hates to be rich, like Kobayashi hates hot dogs, like the Hulk hates to smash, and like God hates hating Cleveland sports.

And as far as that "better than every tight end out there" part goes? Well, not many of the ones considered the best right now have as many career receptions as surgeries.